Peony in Love

Peony in Love

by: Lisa See

Published: 2008

# of pages: 297

I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan many years ago and remember enjoying it. I was eager to read Peony in Love after finding it at a used book sale. The first part of this novel is s.l.o.w. Once I was past the first section (which is, unfortunately, quite long) it really picked up and I enjoyed it a lot. It was very different from Snow Flower, but I liked it!

Peony is a young girl growing up in 17th century China. She is betrothed to a young man that she has never met and will soon turn 16 and begin preparations for her wedding. Her father is a scholar and is putting on a play, "The Peony Pavilion," in their home. Peony is excited that she will be permitted to listen (and catch glimpses of) the play from behind a screen along with her female family members and friends.

She attends the play, which is a love story about a maiden who dies from love sickness and who is destined to roam the earth as a "hungry ghost." She finds her true love (whom she recognizes from a dream) and appears to him as a ghost. They fall in love and she reveals to him that she's a ghost. He takes the necessary actions to bring her back to life and they fall in love in the real world and live happily ever after.

On the first night of the play (which is told over 3 nights), Peony accidentally runs into a strange young man. She has never before seen a man who wasn't a family member and is mortified. But he's handsome and wants her company, so she talks to him and agrees to meet him on the remaining 2 nights of the play. They fall in love, but there's one problem. Both of them are engaged. After they are separated by the end of the play and the departure of the family's guests, Peony becomes obsessed with "The Peony Pavilion." She sees it as a way to connect to the young man she fell in love with because he was also fascinated with the play. Little does she know, her life will soon make very close parallels with the play. Her real life love story doesn't turn out the way she wants it to, but she is closer the the play than she ever imagined she would be.

The first section deals with Peony's obsession with the play. It is slow because of all the references to the play and other literature. I felt that it was a little choppy and that Peony's thoughts don't always flow naturally. She sounds so immature, but perhaps that's what See was trying to convey. In the remaining two sections, she seems more natural and the action picks up since she is no longer confined to her family's estate and doing nothing but pine for her lost love.

Overall this is a unique love story that is also an interesting historical fiction. I recommend it to adults who are interested in Chinese history, historical fiction, Gothic/ghost tales, and See's other novels.

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I'd be happy to post yours as well.

1 comment:

Myckyee said...

I've had this on my TBR list for some time. I liked your review - it's the first I've read about this book actually. Makes me want to pick it up now!

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